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DMV’s got nothing on the Egyptian Embassy

June 9, 2006

After a failed attempt last Friday, I finally made my way to the Egyptian embassy to get a tourist visa, which will allow me to enter the country before I get my full-time student Visa.

Approaching the embassy, I was nervous. The gated building with a huge plaque that says "The Arab Republic of Egypt" isn't exactly welcoming. Should I introduce myself in Arabic? Would they then assume I spoke Egyptian Arabic (there is a big difference between dialects and standard written Arabic).Was I dressed appropriately (wearing jeans and a short-sleeved t-shirt)?

When I got to the door, I was met by a security guard and a metal detector. I don't know why I was surprised, this is Washington, where you have to go through security checkpoints to get into art museums. I opened up my folder to get my passport number and the security guard pointed at where I had stored my AUC acceptance letter and said something in Arabic. I had no idea what he was saying until I looked where he was pointing. It's worrying that I couldn't understand words like "gamiaat" (university) "Qahirah" (Cairo) and "Amerikia", all learned in my first semester of Arabic. Or that he was posing a question at all.

I nervously apologized for my lack of Arabic skills, (although I admitted to knowing the language, without speaking a word of it to him), and made my way to the Visa office. Or, more accurately, the Visa room.

The Visa office is helpfully labelled with instructions in both English and Arabic. This is perhaps because when you first walk in, it seems to be not staffed at all. But as I approached the desk, I learned that it was indeed staffed, and she was indeed crabby.

Visa officer: What do you want?

Taylor: Hi. Um. I'm here for a tourist visa.

Visa: Passport?

Taylor: Excuse me?

Visa: Do you have your passport?

Taylor: Yes

Visa: Application?

Taylor: Ye-

Visa: Photo

Taylor: I haveaquestion! Where it says reference-

Visa: Your mom or dad. Put down the phone number too.

Taylor: How did you –

The Visa officer groans that I have, in fact, read directions and completed the application, and she cannot send me away, and therefore she must get up. She looks at my passport and rolls her eyes at me.

Visa: You are from Connecticut, what are you doing here.

Taylor: I go to school-

Visa: Which?

Taylor: George Washi-

Visa: Then I need both addresses. No! Don't cross that out, add it next to there. No! Multiple entries! Do you want to get stuck in Jordan?

I assured her that no, I did not want to get stuck in Jordan, regardless of why I would be there in the first place, paid her the fee and fled from the scene, fearful of a international tourist version of the Seinfeld soup nazi episode.

A jovial security officer and a cranky cubicle worker. Somethings are universal, regardless of who's territory I am on.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Bill Wilson permalink
    June 22, 2006 4:54 pm

    Sounds like a comedy of errors at the Egyptian Embassy. I certainly hope you DON’T get stuck in Jordan.
    Bill Wilson

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